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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Houck: Blame O-line for bad run game

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas -- There are a lot of reasons the Cowboys’ running game ranks near the bottom of the NFL.

But the biggest problem is pretty simple. The Cowboys haven’t blocked well enough. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck bluntly said so himself.

“The issues are we’re not blocking very well,” Houck said. “Sometimes we don’t hit the hole, but particularly it’s the blocking. [It is] the timing of the run, the timing of the puller, all those things, just everybody working in concert at this particular point.”

The offensive line, which features four thirtysomethings, needs an offseason overhaul. But that’s not Houck’s immediate concern. He has his hands full trying to address the problems in the running game right now.

It definitely didn’t help matters that the offensive line had two starters -- left guard Kyle Kosier and right tackle Marc Colombo -- miss a lot of training camp, most of the preseason and the regular season opener. Kosier also missed a couple of games in October.

The lack of time working together prevented the veteran line from establishing a rhythm this season. They weren’t able to do that during the glorified walkthroughs Wade Phillips called practices during the first half of the season.

It’s no coincidence that the Cowboys have rushed for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games for the first time this season since interim coach Jason Garrett took over. The primary reason for practicing in full pads on Wednesdays is to work on the running game, and that change has paid off.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Houck said. “That’s how it was here when Jimmy Johnson was here. That’s how it is with a lot of teams. Some teams don’t take the pads off the whole week. We’re not to that degree, but I think it does help. You can go faster and there’s no fear of getting hurt.”

The Cowboys’ rushing stats are still pretty ugly. They rank 27th in the league in rushing (89.4 yards per game) and are tied for 24th in yards per carry (3.8). Compare that to last season, when they ranked seventh in rushing (131.4) and tied for second in yards per carry (4.8).

Establishing the run is especially important Sunday against the Colts, who have the league’s 29th-ranked run defense and allow an NFL-high 4.9 yards per carry. That’s the best way to keep Peyton Manning on the sideline as much as possible and slow down the Colts’ pass rush, a pair of keys to the Cowboys’ upset bid.